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Covid victims’ families take legal action against government over care home deaths

Relatives are arguing government failed to protect them from Covid and have issued legal claims for damages for distress caused

Aine Fox
Friday 25 August 2023 10:36 BST

Bereaved families of people who died in care homes and hospitals in the early stages of the pandemic are starting legal action against the government.

Relatives are arguing the government failed to protect them under the Human Rights Act and have issued legal claims for damages for loss of life, personal injuries, pain and suffering, anxiety, distress and feelings of injustice, the law firm representing them said.

Leigh Day said the cases concern deaths near the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic when patients infected with the virus were being transferred from hospitals into care homes.

Lawyers said the families intend to argue that the State failed to protect their rights through failures to publish procedures, appropriate guidance, policies and rules to be applied by operators of care homes, healthcare settings and hospitals.

The legal claims have been issued in the High Court against the Health Secretary, individual care homes and hospital trusts, lawyers said.

Leigh Day partner Emma Jones said: “We had hoped to try to progress our arguments without being forced to start legal action, but unfortunately not all of the defendants would agree to extending the deadline for formally launching the cases.

“As a result, we have taken the necessary step of issuing these claims to protect the positions of our clients and the loved ones they have lost. You cannot underestimate the impact of the tragic loss of life, losing a loved one in such harrowing circumstances, has had on our clients.

“We hope that through bringing these cases there will be a full and thorough investigation into the deaths, which might help our clients to feel they have obtained justice for their loved ones.”

We just want some truthful answers and some honesty really from the government for once. I just think they've got to be accountable in how they handled the whole situation

Sean Davies

Solicitor Beatrice Morgan said: “Our clients believe that the guidance issued by the Health Secretary in the early weeks of the pandemic led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.

“Many feel strongly that rather than trying to protect older people during that time, the guidance put their loved ones at an avoidable risk of harm.”

The claims follow a High Court ruling last year that government policies on discharging hospital patients into care homes at the start of the pandemic were “unlawful”.

In the latest action, the families involved are arguing their rights were breached through State’s failure to comply with its obligations to protect the right to life, respect the right to private and family life and protect the right not to be discriminated against.

Sean Davies, whose mother died in April 2020 in a care home, said families want “answers” and “honesty” from the government.

He told BBC Radio Four’s Today programme: “We just want some truthful answers and some honesty really from the government for once. I just think they’ve got to be accountable in how they handled the whole situation.”

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